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With China Vote, Congress Bows to Big Business, Intense Lobbying, Despite 79 Percent Public Opposition

May 24, 2000

With China Vote, Congress Bows to Big Business, Intense Lobbying, Despite 79 Percent Public Opposition

Costly Corporate Campaign, Illegal White House Lobbying Tipped Vote; Broad Fair Trade Coalition Promises to Seek Accountability, a Continued Fight

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today’s vote on China’s trade status represents one of the most dramatic and potentially damaging sellouts to big business in recent congressional history, Public Citizen representatives said today.

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook attributed the vote’s outcome to an intense advertising and lobbying blitz by corporations and the White House. Business trade associations, such as the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their member corporations, spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying, political donations, and TV and radio advertising in a legislative campaign they have declared was their costliest ever.

“Congress has sold out to corporate interests to help them rake in even bigger profits by giving China a blank check,” Claybrook said. “When American businesses look to China, they see dollar signs. They ignore the misery brought by China’s continued human rights violations and inhumane treatment of workers. Lawmakers have dealt Americans a sharp slap in the face.”

She noted that a Harris poll last month showed that 79 percent of Americans oppose the policy approved today.

The coalition that opposed the bill — including Chinese dissidents, consumer, environmental, human rights, family farm, religious and labor groups — will keep up pressure, said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

“Members of Congress who supported permanent, unconditional access for goods from China will rue this day as China’s human rights conduct worsens, saber rattling against Taiwan intensifies and U.S. jobs are lost,” Wallach said. “The China trade vote was a case study of the corrosive effect money can have on the political process and will be a case study of the corrosive effect political betrayal can have on Election Day.

“The same forces who stopped Fast Track in 1997 and 1998, tanked the MAI negotiations in 1998, and halted the planned WTO expansion in 1999 will intensify our never-ending campaign for fair trade by ensuring those who voted with their constituents against China PNTR are rewarded and those who betrayed their voters at home face accountability in November,” Wallach said.

The Government Accounting Office found the White House violated laws that prohibit spending federal dollars to lobby Congress on legislative matters, Claybrook and Wallach noted. Also, unable to secure a majority on the merits, Clinton twisted the arms of lawmakers by offering pork barrel deals, such as environmental approval for a controversial, environmentally dangerous pipeline in Texas and promises to build weather stations and extend military contracts in target members’ congressional districts.

“The question of China’s trade status was a skirmish in an on-going, long-term fight about forcing pro-consumer, pro-human rights, pro-democracy rules for globalization. Globalization is a defining phenomenon of our time and we are in this fight for the long term,” Claybrook said.